Gungrave G.O.R.E is the latest entry in the Gungrave franchise. For many of you it may be the first time you’ve ever heard of Gungrave but if you’re remotely into Anime you’ll have heard two of its designers Kosuke Fujishima (oh my goddess!) and Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun) who provided mechanical and character designs respectivly.
The original game hit the playstation 2 in 2002 and was so stylish that it spawned and Anime series, as well the odd sequel over the years, that latest being a VR entry in 2017. The VR entry serves as a prequel to G.O.R.E but you shouldn’t have any difficulty in picking up the plot.
You play as “Beyond the Grave”, simply refered to as Grave as you run around blasting everything in sight. Gungrave is third person blast fest, your main weapons are your Cerberus pistols that you’ll duel wield and the transformable EVO-Coffin that has a whole host of death dealing delights to slaughter goons with.
Grave and he’s associates are taking down crime in a hail of gunfire, explosions and carnage, to be honest, I could stop mentioning the plot here. It’s not a bad story but it’s really not why you’ll be playing Gungrave G.O.R.E. The story is a old school or ‘dated’ depending on your perspective as it gets, good vs bad, guns vs goons, it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the title but I’d be lying if I said it added anything to the experience.
My first impressions of Gungrave G.O.R.E weren’t positive, the game looked, played and felt like an 360 launch game and I couldn’t believe that it actually supported S/X enhanced features. Namely the option of a performance or quality mode. Although it’s sort of pointless given that the game is in 4k and toggling the option just changes the Framerate between 30 or 60. In case you’re wondering, framerate is where you should lean. Once you start pulling the tigger making sense of what’s on screen becomes almost pointless, all you need know, is that whatever is on the screen needs shooting.
When it comes to the visuals of Gungrave G.O.R.E I’m going to have to break it into two halves, there are graphics and then style/design. Graphically, G.O.R.E is fine, everything has a shiny last gen look to it that didn’t impress me at all. In fairness, the game now has the option for a “Cell shaded” mode, which does away with almost every graphically complaint I had about this title as it looks cool as hell.
Gameplay is fast, insanely frantic and weighty, it’s no surprise that Grave doesn’t feel like Bayonetta given the huge coffin he’s lugging around. The game ‘aims’ for you, well, it selects the targets you point the crossahairs at. So does every shooter right? Well, yes and no. In most shooters you shoot where you aim, in G.O.R.E you soft of just paint the levels with bullets and the game will work out which heads to put them in.
Grave has a health bar and a Shield, you take damage, your shield drops, tun out of Shield and your health starts to deplete, run out of that and you die. Gungrave can be punishing, if you aren’t paying attention and rely on the paintbrush style shooting you’re in for a world of hurt. It’s not too and though as checkpoints are kindly spaced and theres not a huge amount of punishment for dying. Not on your progress at least, your total score at the end of each level, Gungrave is less kind.
Scores at the end of a stage adds to the dated feel of the game and it’s nothing I’ve ever cared for in gaming and to be fair, it’s pretty much a staple of Japanese action games. Completing levels with a better score increases the DNA you earn, which can be spent on upgrading Grave and his equipment. From more range, more health and the standard sort of things, you can unlock new combos and mega attacks that are so satisfying to witness.
Cool isn’t something I often think about in terms of games all that often, but the Rule of Cool is certainly in constant effect when it comes to Gungrave, almost every issue that game has can be happily ignored because it’s just so damm stylish.
In fact I can only thing of one area of the game that cool just doesn’t quite cut it. The level design, they are narrow rectangular corridors connecting open squares, that’s it. Blast down a corridor and enter a larger chamber for a big fight, repeat, repeat and repeat. Occasionally a large chamber has a mechanically uninteresting bullet sponge of a boss in it, luckily most levels are short enough that they are over before it becomes too tiresome.
I coudln’t decide if Gungrave G.O.R.E is an example of style over substance or a franchise staying true to what makes its very own. After much reflection, I’ve decided it’s both. If you’re a fan already you’ll be delighted with G.O.R.E, if you’re used to more mechanically modern games it’s not going to be something I think you’d enjoy for longer than an hour or two.